6 of Dubai’s first ever restaurants
If you’ve lived in Dubai for longer than a week you’ll know the city has got international dining nailed. Choose any dish on a whim: razor-thin sashimi, tahini-dipped falafels or mutton-rich dhansak and there’ll be a restaurant ready to satisfy the most cosmopolitan of cravings. There’s Greek, Pakistani, Thai, Iraqi, Brazilian and more steakhouses than you can shake a tempura battered onion ring.
Until last month, however, there wasn’t anywhere dedicated to Malaysian cuisine. Rasa Sayang (or “taste of love”) plugged that particular gap in July, opening its doors in Oud Metha to serve peanut chicken satays, beef rendang and the ever-popular Nasi Lemak to hungry crowds most nights. Represent.
As we’re celebrating our launch, we started wondering about Dubai’s other culinary “firsts”, those places that have survived trends and have refused to flounder under the fickle and finickity ways of the city we eat in. Here are our favourites.
First opened: 1969
Where: Meena Bazaar, Bur Dubai
Considered the array of Indian options in Dubai, being recognised the oldest surviving Indian restaurant is quite a feat. Tucked snugly in a pocket of Bur Dubai, it’s still run by the original owner Kaku Maharaj who loves serving up Bombay Pa Bhaji, Katchori and north Indian Thali to a host of loyal customers. He is proud to say he’s catered for pretty much every Sindhi-Bhatia wedding in the local community since the late 60s. You’ll only need to spend around AED20 between two people to feel stuffed.
Happy customer: “I still eat here regularly and have done for years. The curries are just fantastic and it’s still the only place to go for gajar mirchi” – Bhumika Nasta.
Contact: 009714 3525817, 009714 3552615
BRITISH PUB STYLE
The George and Dragon
First opened: 1969 (refurbed in 1987)
Where: The Ambassador Hotel, Bur Dubai
This is British-style pub tucked away in the Ambassador Hotel, which according to the hotel’s managing partner, Mahesh Whabi, is Dubai’s oldest surviving hotel. “People will return from overseas and tell me they visited 15 years earlier and nothing has changed,” says manager Jonathon Kelso. “It’s the best value in town for good food. Our signature dish, the chicken tikka masala, is an institution in itself.”
Look out for a stuffed monkey behind the bar. It’s been there from day one and holds such sentimental value with some loyal customers they’ve tried to steal it several times!
Happy customer: “If I want to feel young again I visit the George and Dragon. It hasn’t changed in years: top food, top people, top place!” – Ollie Martyn
Contact: +9714 393 9444,